LEE TEAGUE: N.C. does provide appropriate oversight of charter schools

Posted January 17

Executive Director, N.C. Association for Public Charter Schools

Your January 11 opinion piece claims that "without accountability and transparency" charter schools will become a crisis. It might surprise you, but that is the opinion of charter advocates as well. Where we disagree is when you call current charter oversight "lax." It is not in this state.

Public charters must meet the same academic testing standards as conventional public schools. They are regulated by the Office of Charter Schools in the Department of Public Instruction, the Charter School Advisory Board, and the State Board of Education. Each year, all schools are audited by a CPA. They must adhere to a lengthy list of requirements in the charter school agreement. Their Board of Directors must adhere to nepotism and open meeting laws.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that some charter schools in this state have been, and probably will be, shut down for lack of performance. That cannot be said of any conventional school.

What happened at Kestrel Heights School is not acceptable by any standard. All high school diplomas must have meaning, or none do. Anyone who was in the room when the Charter School Advisory Board discussed their recommendation could see how seriously they took the offense. They made clear the punishment would have been worse if the school leaders had not done the right thing and self-reported.

Underlying your criticism of charter oversight in the Kestrel matter seems to be an assumption that it could not happen at a traditional school. In fact, the same thing happened at a traditional school in Charlotte five years ago. The "loud warning" you speak of needs to be broader than just charters. The Charter School Advisory Board will be reviewing the issue in the coming months. With the pressure to raise graduation rates, traditional school leaders need to do the same.

Charter school operators understand that without accountability and transparency they will lose the flexibility that allows them to thrive. But too many policy leaders and opinion makers do not understand all the oversight of charter schools in place now to protect parents, students, and taxpayers. It sure isn't lax!

Lee Teague is executive director of the N.C. Association for Public Charter Schools


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